Modric - Croatias midfield magician

11 May 2014 11:32

With his long hair and trademark headband Luka Modric would not look out of place shuffling round Stonehenge next month in a kaftan celebrating the summer solstice.

But rather than dabbling in new age mysticism in England, Modric will be worshipping at the high altar of football, the World Cup finals, where Croatia are counting on the inspirational playmaker to maintain the stunning form he has produced this season at Real Madrid.

Modric's compact frame has played a giant role in Madrid's season, with the hard to please Bernabeu crowd chanting his name at every opportunity.

The love-in would have been inconceivable 12 months ago when his Real career made a stuttering start.

After a successful four years with Tottenham Hotspur in England, Modric completed a dream 33 million pound (44 million euro) move to Madrid. But his first season under then boss Jose Mourinho was a nightmare.

Deployed irregularly he suffered the ignominy of being voted the worst signing of the year in one Spanish newspaper poll.

That bumpy landing in the Spanish capital must seem light years away now as under Mourinho's successor Carlo Ancelotti he has lit up Real's campaign.

Reflecting on the difference a season makes Modric, in a rare interview, told the BBC: "Last season I played some good games but our results were not following.

"That's why maybe people didn't appreciate my performance.

"This season, I am at the peak of my game and we have good resultsI feel really, really good."

When Modric arrived in the Premier League some suggested, given his size, he might struggle to cope with the physical demands of the English game.

Yet Modric is made out of stern stuff, resilience forged in part from growing up in the horrors of the brutal 1990s Balkans civil war.

He prefers not to dwell in public on that traumatic period in which his grandfather was killed and his family fled their village when he was just six.

He did however reveal in the Daily Telegraph in 2008: "It is what has made me the person I am today.

"I am a lot stronger now. But I don't want to be constantly dwelling on it. I just want to move on and start afresh. Nothing can surprise me now. I am prepared for anything that is thrown at me."

Five-time world champions and World Cup hosts Brazil await Modric and Croatia in the opening game of the tournament in Sao Paulo on June 12.

"It's going to be the easiest game for us," Modric told Fox Sports breezily last month.

"There is no pressure in that game, we just need to enjoy it.

"We don't have any pressure at all. We can only win from this game."

Source: AFP

World Cup Group G

England 2 0 0 6 6
Belgium 2 0 0 6 6
Tunisa 0 0 2 -4 0
Panama 0 0 2 -8 0
Last updated : 10:18